Pakistani officials predicted Sunday that many more thousands of dead would be found in earthquake-ravaged Kashmir as heavy rains in the Himalayan region drenched homeless survivors.
The latest estimate of at least 40,000 deaths in Pakistan's portion of Kashmir alone would mean more than 54,000 people were killed when the magnitude-7.6 quake hit the mountains of northern Pakistan and India on Oct. 8 -- a jump of more than 13,000 from the official toll.
A spokesman for Sikander Hayat Khan, the senior elected official in the region, warned that the cold and wet could cause further deaths among the 2 million or so people believed to be homeless.
"The death toll is not less than 40,000" in Pakistani Kashmir, said Abdul Khaliq Wasi. He stressed that the number was only "a closest estimate" and did not reflect the number of bodies recovered.
Khan gave a more dire prediction to Pakistan's Geo television. "Some people fear that the death toll could be 100,000, and they may be right," he said.
A precise toll will be difficult to determine because many bodies are buried under collapsed buildings and mud from landslides.
Maj. Gen. Farooq Ahmad Khan, the Pakistani relief commissioner, voiced fears about the chilly downpours that were making conditions even more miserable for quake survivors forced to live in the open.
"There are bound to be casualties because of bad weather," Khan said at a news conference.
Geoffrey Krassy, a State Department official, said many in the quake zone remained cut off from aid.
"About 20 percent of the populated areas have yet to be reached," said Krassy, who normally runs a surveillance unit monitoring drug-smuggling on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The unit has been redeployed to help quake victims, Krassy told reporters in Islamabad.
Torrential rain halted airborne relief efforts in Kashmir, where the Pakistani military said a relief helicopter crashed late Saturday, killing all six soldiers aboard.
An aid worker with a Pakistani nonprofit organization was killed Sunday morning in Balakot when he accidentally walked into the tail rotor of a helicopter, the state news agency APP reported.